Saturday, October 2, 2010

Activists decry changes to Employment Act (Free Malaysia Today)

Activists decry changes to Employment Act

By Rahmah Ghazali

KUALA LUMPUR: Draconian, oppressive, inhuman, a suck-up to the rich and a betrayal of the working man—these are some of the epithets civic groups are using to describe proposed amendments to the Employment Act that the Human Resources Ministry will soon table in Parliament. 

R Ravindrakumar, a member of the Malaysian Bar’s Industrial Law Committee, said the amendments would put a halt to workers’ industrial freedom.

Speaking at a press conference in the presence of other labour activists, he said some of the proposals would have the effect of restricting workers’ access to justice when their employers unlawfully dismiss them.

Under the current law, he explained, “when an employee’s termination is unlawful, the chairman of the industrial court will determine whether the employee’s termination was done with just cause.”

The proposed amendments, however, identify several groups of employees that will not have the benefit of seeking redress through the industrial court.

These groups would include those who earn RM10,000 and above a month, those who have accepted retrenchment benefits, and those on fixed-term contracts, such as probationers.

This would go against the Federal Constitution, which provides for equality before the law, according to Ravindrakumar.

He said: “If the constitution says that everyone is equal, why exclude certain people? When you exclude them, what remedy to they have?

“At best, they could go to civil court, which has no power to reinstate an employee back to his job.”

The amendments will go through their second reading in Parliament this month.

There are also plans to amend the Industrial Relations Act and the Trade Union Act.

S Parameswari, a representative of Gabungan Membantah Akta Pekerjaan, said the amendments would be detrimental to local workers employed in factories because they will have to go through sub-contractors instead of dealing directly with their employers.

“The ultimate implication is that the direct relationship between the workers and the employees will be lost,” she said.

She also pointed out that under the amendments, employers would get an extension of 30 days to remit overtime payment to their workers, compared to seven days under the current law.

Furthermore,  employers will get more freedom in setting working hours. “If they call you up at 3am, then you have to work at that hour,” Parameswari said.

Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) secretary-general S Arutchelvan said the proposed amendments were the most draconian in 40 years of Malaysian industrial history.

“For more than 10 years, civil society has been asking for other policies, such as minimum wage, funds to be given to those who have been retrenched and automatic registration to trade unions, but the government has not passed any of these laws,” he said.

“What they are doing now is making the laws favourable to big corporations.”

He added that workers were beginning to lose faith in the government’s promise to institute a minimum wage regulation.

“We feel that it is not going to happen because minimum wage is opposed by the employers’ federation. They have delayed this for many years and all they do is please the foreign investors.”

Arutchelvan also accused the Najib administration of insensitivity to the rights and needs of the poor in removing subsidies for essential items and proposing the Goods and Services Tax.

“But the government does not touch subsidies to the big corporations,” he said.

Other groups represented at the press conference were Suaram, Jaringan Rakyat Tertindas (Jerit), Joint Action for Gender Equality (JAG), Parti Rakyat Malaysia (PRM) and Gabungan Anak Muda dan Pelajar (GAMP).

No comments: